If there was ever a question of whether the Protostar crew would be able to circumvent the weapon planted by the Vau N'Akat, Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1 Episode 19 settles it with breathtakingly tragic effect.
Arriving at the heart of Federation space to be greeted by a massive assembly of Starfleet vessels, the penultimate episode of the season sees all efforts to prevent the living construct from fulfilling its mandate foiled at every turn.
And even when Gwyn's impassioned plea for assistance from the Federation's allies is answered, the very protocols designed to ensure Starfleet's survival appear to guarantee its destruction.
Every battle has at least two sides. What's horrifically brilliant about this scenario is that the Vau N'Akat's vengeance is poetically realized by turning the Federation's systems on itself, using Starfleet's tech to destroy Starfleet lives.
It's an incredibly sophisticated level of conflict architecture. We have the Vau N'Akat of the future striking a pre-emptive blow to the Federation in the present to prevent them from ever making first contact with the Vau N'Akat, who currently have no idea what the Federation is.
Furthermore, assuming The Vindicator and The Diviner are the only members of The Order who survived the trip through the time anomaly, it is the last vestiges of a species fulfilling a mission to ensure the mission will never be needed. Got all that? Time travel's a mind-bender.
There is a marked difference between the levels of fervor for retribution exhibited by The Vindicator and The Diviner.
They have no idea what is coming. Years, we have waited for this. Years they will suffer.The Vindicator
Whether that's a function of their different time lapses from the outset of their mission or simply a difference in personality that extends back to when the Federation made first contact with Solum, it plays out to tragic results when The Diviner chooses to save Gwyn over attacking Starfleet.
When we were getting oriented on Tars Lamora on Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1 Episode 1, who could've ever predicted The Diviner would be the lesser of two perils? That we would mourn his passing? That we would sympathize with his plight?
By any measure, this has been a helluva journey for everyone we met on that mine-ridden planetoid.
It's especially galling that The Vindicator escapes so easily, although one wonders where she'll go now that she's completed her mission.
Will she try to contact Solum, blend into society, and maybe see if she can witness her own birth in a couple of decades?
Will she play Cassandra to Solum's Troy and try to warn them of outsiders like the Federation?
Or will she have her Drednok fly her somewhere wholly different where she can live out her days, satisfied with her accomplishment?
I sense that we'll see her again, and Gwyn will have her own vengeance to exact when that encounter happens.
From the beginning, communication has been the thematic framework of Star Trek: Prodigy.
On Tars Lamora, the Unwanted were purposely prevented from being able to communicate with each other to keep them divided and distrustful of each other.
When the living construct's function is discovered on board the Protostar, it prevents communication with the Dauntless, as any transmissions would trigger infecting the systems.
My father had me study languages to pit species against each other. Instead, I can bring them together.Gwyn
Gwyn's role as translator when the living construct crashes the Universal Translator program aboard all Starfleet vessels is the only way they can call for help from Federation-allied ships without Starfleet signatures.
Klingon Captain: Why should I help?
Gwyn: Because in the infinite of space, everyone needs to know there’s a place out there willing to accept us all, no matter how different we think we are. Without Starfleet, the Federation crumbles, and that dream dies with it. If they’ve ever helped you as they’ve helped us, then hear my words - allies, civilians, outsiders, anyone, Starfleet needs you now or it will not survive.
Just as the living construct turned the Federation's tools against them, Gwyn took the linguistic skills her father trained her to use for slave trading and turned them into a way to help the Federation survive the Vau N'Akat's attack.
In every way, the Federation and the Protostar crew are outmatched.
The Vindicator's Drednok unit single-handedly -- well, it's got many "hands," but you get my meaning -- defeats Dal, Rok-Tahk, Jankom Pog, and Zero with ease.
And when Murf arrives with all his Mellanoid slime ninja skills, he, too, is summarily (and literally) put on ice.
(Although, if I were to name a specific highlight in the various battles here, it would have to be the sight of Murf taunting the Drednok in what can only be described as vulgar trash-talk charades.)
In the old days, this would've been the season finale, leaving us in the bleakest circumstances, waiting MONTHS for the next season's premiere, where the heroes could/might/MUST triumph.
Thankfully, we have evolved beyond that traumatic sort of programming, and we only have a week to wait to see how the Federation can be saved.
There’s nothing we can do. We can’t warp away. We can’t stop the signal. It’s annihilation.Gwyn
While there's intellectual understanding that we will survive this, there is a LOT of carnage visited upon the fleet as the living construct's infection takes hold. No loss of life is seen on-screen, but the damage sustained by the ships is understood to include injuries and casualties to the crew on board.
Thinking back to Star Trek: The Next Generation, I don't think there's a battle on this level seen until the Borg attack at the end of Season 3.
We know there will be a win at the end of this, but that doesn't mean there won't be losses to account for as well.
What does the immediate future hold for our ragtag team of Starfleet wannabees?
And what does the long-term future look like for Dal, knowing he won't be admitted to the Academy because he's an Augment?
How do you feel about that cliffhanger, Fanatics? Feel free to vent or commiserate in the comments below! We want to hear your thoughts on this!
Let's hope the week between us and the finale will GO FAST!
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She is a lifelong fan of smart sci-fi and fantasy media, an upstanding citizen of the United Federation of Planets, and a supporter of AFC Richmond 'til she dies. Her guilty pleasures include female-led procedurals, old-school sitcoms, and Bluey. She teaches, knits, and dreams big. Follow her on Twitter.